Could It Be That Simple?

Three days have elapsed, and I went to bed when I was tired without much fuss or friction. Why did I ever make a problem out of going to bed? Could the tentative experience of observing what was going on in mind when I was on the point to go to bed have worked so readily?

It is, of course too early to say, but let me share two patterns I have observed. The primary one is that before going to bed, I have a strong feeling that something is missing and I have a strong draw to seek the comfort of social interaction. Probably related, the second pattern is that I am attracted to the dopamine boosts provided by the virtual world of social networks or online entertainment. Lastly, there is the feeling that I have not managed to do enough during the day and that I would feel much better if I could cross an extra item from my to-do list.

On Friday, my partner wanted to watch a drama episode of a series that we have started following – something we enjoy doing together. Even though I had not moved much during the day, I was already tired and was apprehensive that it might stimulate me and give me a second wind. I know that sometimes watching a film or TV programme before going to bed switches my thinking on! But I decided to go with it and remained curious to see what would happen if I was more conscious about the process. Once the show was over, I took a cold shower and did not think about the show I had just seen. I went to bed at around ten o’clock but tossed for a little while. After resisting the urge to get up, I somehow found a balance between observing what was happening in my head and letting go of the day.

On Saturday, something similar happened. I had a conference call which I was committed to attending. Because of different time zones, the call went on until quarter past ten, and I was anxious that it would interfere with my experiment. I relaxed into the call and stayed tune to my body – I could have left the call before the end, but chose to finish with everyone else. Once the meeting was over, I went to bed pretty much straight away – without taking a cold shower this time. I fell asleep quite soon after hitting the pillow.

Was it just luck? The critical step has been to ignore the draw for mind stimulation, to listen instead to my body and to retire quite quickly when I felt ripe for bed. Not sure if I have gained new insights about how my mind works – but I may have dislodged a problem I had built over many years about not going to bed when I was tired.

This series of posts are part of Incrementally– a 366-day writing challenge.

Photo by Cris Saur

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Three Days to Drop A Habit

Ok, I am giving myself three days to drop a simple habit.

Why three days, you may ask? Well, because it is a piece of homework I was given when I was fourteen and I never really acted upon it. The teacher in question was J. Krishnamurti.

When I was a student at Brockwood Park in the eighties, we would meet with him quite regularly in September, February, and June, and on one of these occasions, he set us some homework! That day, he was speaking about habits and suggested that we could understand how minds work by actively dropping a habit.

It did not matter what habit we chose to drop; the important thing was to observe the workings of the mind seriously. What was most surprising is that he specifically mentioned that one could lose a habit in three days. This was unusual for him, as he rarely ever gave specific advice.

It was a long time ago and, if I remember correctly, he instructed us that the first day we needed to carefully observe the habit without any interference. The second day, we needed to observe what would happen if we stopped performing the habit and notice the movements of thought, the sensations in the body, the resistance, etc. On the third day, we could let go of it entirely and wave it goodbye.

I could not really come up with a habit at the time, and it seemed a little magical, so I ignored the exercise and never really gave it a go. 

Today, some thirty-four years later, I decided to act upon it and give myself three days to drop one habit. The habit I chose to work on is NOT GOING TO BED WHEN I FEEL TIRED. It is a habit I have been struggling with since I was a child. I have tried so many things to encourage myself to go to bed early over the years that I have nearly given up on it. Yet, I have nothing to lose and intend to focus on it diligently for the next few days and use this writing challenge to write a little about the process in the next three days.

Finally, it would be nice if you could join me with the challenge or attempt to drop a habit or your own – in three days!

This series of posts are part of Incrementally– a 366-day writing challenge.

Photo by Darius Bashar

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Go to bed

Go to bed

“Go to Bed” was perhaps the sentence I disliked most when I was a child and I heard it every night. It was just a sentence but it often felt like a little death sentence. The days never seemed to be long enough and even if I was tired, going to bed meant turning my back to all the people that were still up and all the exciting things I suddenly felt like doing. Going to bed was a battle.

Later on in life, I realised that it wasn’t just me, most of the people I’d ask admitted that they usually went to bed too late to their liking. In other words, we do not listen to how tired we are and stay up to find more exciting things to do. In the short term, it is not a big problem, we either catch up by getting up later or just adjust to less sleep. In the long term, however, it can develop into unhealthy rhythms and sleep deprivation – both of which can have adverse health consequences.

Everyone is different, and some people may feel more productive at night than in the morning, and it is not for me to judge what is right or wrong on the matter. However, I have learnt to listen to my body and know that I feel so much better when I go to bed early and wake up early. Even more so when I have a regular rhythm.

This does not mean that I do it, though. I regularly go past my bed time and regret it the next day. It is always surprising to me how knowing that something is right for us, does not necessarily make us act upon it – even when we want to. I guess it is often tied to poor habits, and this is why it ‘s hard to do something about it.

Learning to go to bed when one is tired is perhaps one of the most basic skills of the art of living. For lack of energy and vitality affects everything we do. So it may be worth it to change our habits. There are three relatively simple things we can do to put ourselves on the right track:

  1. Go to bed as soon as we feel tired
  2.  Wake up at the same time every day – even on the weekends
  3. Exercise daily

It is very likely that you and I are going to ignore this advice totally and continue to go frequently to bed late. And, as I discovered as a child, it is not enough for someone to tell you: “Go to bed,” the change has to come from within, and we have to be clear about the benefits and the trade-offs. Having plenty of vitality and not feeling tired throughout the day is wonderful – and it starts by making peace with the idea of going to bed before one is ready to drop.

Paradoxically, it is eleven as I write these words. I shall follow my own advice “Go to bed” immediately!


Photo: Alex Pavlou

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